Hockenheim – Germany, 22nd October 2023
The two final races of the 2023 DTM season were hard to beat in terms of excitement for Emil Frey Racing. Both Ferrari 296 GT3s were involved in many battles for positions and even if though they did not secure the expected results at the finishing line, the Swiss team won the all-important Pitstop-Challenge awarded to the team with the fastest pitstops over the entire season in its debut season.
Race 1 I Saturday, 21st October 2023:
In the first qualifying session on Saturday morning, Jack Aitken placed the number 14 Ferrari in a good fifth place, just 0.345 seconds behind the Pole-Sitter. Qualifying was less fortunate for team-mate Thierry Vermeulen, who in the sister number 69 Ferrari did not go beyond 19th on the grid.
The penultimate DTM race of the season was action-packed from start to finish. On the first lap, Jack Aitken made-up a position and from then on the Englishman engaged in a relentless duel with the #7 Audi of Feller. Lap after lap, the two DTM drivers dueled, but Jack Aitken was again able to exploit the potential of the Ferrari 296 GT3 and increased the lead to 0.779 seconds.
Jack Aitken then also arrived for his pitstop at the same time as his Audi competitor at the beginning of the pit-stop-window. Thanks to an excellent pitstop by the Emil Frey Racing team and the fastest time, they gained a position.
Thierry Vermeulen, meanwhile, had a quieter race. Away from the start, the Dutchman made-up two positions and pitted on lap 15. While the rookie DTM driver settled for 11th position, Jack Aitken had a hot second part of the race.
On lap 14, the #92 Lamborghini of Bortolloti went alongside Jack Aitken and the #7 Audi of Feller side-by-side through the tight corners of the Motodrome, where finally Jack Aitken passed the #92 Lamborghini in the overtaking maneuver of the race in the last turn before the Start-/Finish-Straight. Two laps later he overtook the #94 Lamborghini, however the #7 Audi was in waiting position and took the opportunity to again take the position from Jack Aitken.
The final six minutes of racing saw another strong battle. The #14 Ferrari driver was in fifth place at the time. When the #92 Lamborghini with Bortolloti at the wheel passed the #7 Audi, he caught up to the #14 and took over 5th place. Unfortunately, Jack Aitken still lost sixth place to the #3 Audi of van der Linde at the end and finished the race in 7th place.
The Emil Frey Racing drivers eventually finished in 7th and 11th place.
Race 2 I Sunday, 22nd October 2023:
In qualifying on Sunday, Thierry Vermeulen put in a good performance with sixth place while Jack Aitken, who was struggling with balance problems, set the eleventh-fastest-time.
Jack Aitken was unfortunately in the wrong place at the wrong time at the start and lost a huge amount of positions and was 20th after the first lap. Thierry Vermeulen lost one position to the #48 Mercedes, but the field was brought back together on the third lap when the Safety-Car came onto the track after an accident involving the #19 Lamborghini.
On the Re-start, Thierry Vermeulen in the #69 Ferrari unfortunately lost a few places, was also pushed onto the grass by an opponent and was in 12th position. On lap 12 he came into the pits for the obligatory pitstop, but the team experienced a technical problem with the impact wrench and this cost time when changing the right rear wheel.
Jack Aitken made up a few positions, setting the absolute best first and third sectors on lap 12, and pitted unadjusted from 3rd on lap 16. The team completed a quick and strong pit stop this time and the #14 sorted itself back into race action in 13th place.
Thierry Vermeulen was on the inside approaching the Mercedes grandstand and tried to pass an opponent, but he didn’t give him enough room which resulted in the #69 Ferrari hitting the #40 Audi and forcing it into a spin. The race stewards then handed out a “3-lap-penalty” and the race was over for the young Dutchman – he only crossed the finish line in 24th place.
The #14 Ferrari saw itself in great duels with the #24 Porsche towards the end of the race, forcing it onto the grass twice, but Jack Aitken came back each time. After setting another personal best lap-time on lap 32, the Englishman finally crossed the finishing line in 10th place.
Teamquotes Emil Frey Racing
Lorenz Frey-Hilti, Team Principal: “I’m sure we could have done better this weekend, as we showed strong pace on the free laps, but we struggled more in the battles. Jack had a difficult start today, which made his recovery all the more impressive. Thierry first lost positions at the start and then had bad luck with the problems on the impact wrench at the pitstop, but showed very good lap-times afterwards. I’m very happy that we won the Pitstop Challenge, so we can at least take home one trophy in our first year in the DTM. Yesterday Jack had shown brilliant overtaking maneuvers, it’s a pity that the commentators had spoken rather negatively about him about the way he defended himself and today he was pushed onto the grass twice and that remains uncommented. For the spectators, both races were certainly enormously exciting. But we are here to win, we know where we need to improve.”
Jürg Flach, Technical Director: “The weekend was not easy, the performance was okay in qualifying and we had a good basis for the races. But in the races themselves it was noticeable that we didn’t have enough boost, the others simply had more power than us. Thierry did a great job in qualifying on Sunday, Jack had some problems with the car. The season has been very tough, but today we saw again that the pace was good and the Set-up was right and we’re definitely going into the right direction, and that makes me positive for next year.”
Driver Quote Ferrari 296 GT3 #14
Jack Aitken (Great Britain): “Yesterday was just great with all the competition, Hockenheim is not quite the ideal track for us so it was nice to see that we could still attack. Today we had a few problems with the Set-up on the car because we had to change some parts yesterday after the contacts in the race, and unfortunately the performance wasn’t where we expected it to be after that. At the start I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was a great pity that we couldn’t finish the season in a better position.”
Driver Quote Ferrari 296 GT3 #69
Thierry Vermeulen (Netherlands): “First of all a very big thank you to the whole team, it was a new challenge for me as a driver as well as for the team here in the DTM. In general we have shown a solid job, but certainly there are some small things we need to improve over the winter to come back stronger as a team and also me as a driver. There’s a great atmosphere in the team and we’ve really worked great together and, above all, it’s been a lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to the winter testing, because there is still a lot of potential in us. This weekend was really close, especially in qualifying, in the races I think I gave everything I had and the team worked out a great strategy. Sunday was a very chaotic race, a lot of incidents I don’t agree with and of course I didn’t deliberately provoke the accident with the Audi. It was a weekend to forget, but a year to remember.”